FIFA World Cup Group D Focus: Serbia Players & Form
Serbia- The lowdown on who to look out for and how they've been getting on
Who to look out for
The Serbia side is unquestionably gifted but the major question is which Serbia will turn up? Last time round, arguments within the squad caused a promising side to fall apart.
At least six players are based in the English top flight and four in Italy. Aside from these players, most of the rest are scattered around the world-s best leagues.
At the back, widely regarded as one of the best centre-backs in the world, Manchester United-s Nemanja Vidic is a rock at the heart of the Serbian defence. He-s solid in the air, tough tackling and also a good target man for attacking set pieces.
Versatile defender Branislav Ivanovic has also become a regular after joining Chelsea from Lokomotiv Moscow in Jan 2008. The transfer fee-s speculated at being around $15million.
In midfield, the evergreen Dejan Stankovic is another household name and this will be his third FIFA World Cup, strangely enough for his third country (Yugoslavia in 1998, Serbia-Montenegro 2006 and Serbia this time).
He-s played for Lazio and Inter but more recently with the Milan club since 2004. He-s closing in on 200 appearances and has won five Italian Championships (one with Lazio, four with Inter). He-s also the second highest capped Serb with 86 appearances to date.
Also in midfield, Milos Krasic (CSKA Msocow) is one of the most dangerous players and is the subject of many a scouting trip from Europe-s top clubs after impressive Champions League performances this season.
Up front they-ve also got a solid line up with Marko Pantelic (Ajax, Holland) and the powerful Nikola Zigic (Valencia, Spain) spearheading their attack.
Elsewhere in the squad, keeper Vladimir Stojkovic has been on loan at Premiership Wigan, Nenad Milijas plays for Wolves at the moment, Aleksandar Kolarov, Aleksandar Lukovic (and Stankovic) are all playing in Italy.
Individually the squad is especially strong and will be a force to be reckoned with and now the coach seems to have a real togetherness, they will be tough fort the Qantas Socceroos to overcome.
Their form over the last year makes impressive reading. They topped a qualification group that included France, Austria and Romania and despite the bookies saying they-d be lucky to finish second, they dominated the group from start to finish.
Since last March they-ve played 11 games, including their FIFA World Cup qualification matches. Of those 11 they-ve come out on top no less than nine times, with only one draw and one loss (in the qualifiers after they-d already made it to South Africa).
They-ve played a wide range of sides too, from Europeans in the qualifiers, to Africans and Asians so they'll be well prepared for any opposition.
In the last three matches they-ve scored seven goals and conceded none. However, leading up to the last tournament in Germany, they conceded only one goal in 10 qualification matches.
Before the tournament begins, they have three crucial fixtures to iron out any creases, when they face New Zealand, Poland and Cameroon.
Just over a week later they play Ghana, followed by Germany and then of course the all important group finale against the Qantas Socceroos.
Coach Raddy Antic insists his side have put the troubles of the past behind them and are ready to put in a real challenge this time. Having won the top honours as a coach in Spain he knows how to mould a successful side.
“We have created a really positive atmosphere and our confidence is high. We-ve genuinely turned into a big family. My ambitions are much bigger than qualification.”
Despite the strong performances though, they haven-t faced a top side since playing France last September where they drew 1-1.
Overall, their results in the qualifiers and over the last year in general suggest that they will be formidable opposition in the FIFA World Cup. The final group game has been billed as the decider but that-s what they said in Serbia-s qualification group!
If recent history-s anything to go by, they will underperform but with a strong bond seemingly installed by an experienced coach, they look like they-re going to perform as a unit and Australia will have to be at their best to beat them and make it through to the second round.